Schubert - Schwanengesang

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FRANZ SCHUBERT - Schwanengesang - Mark Padmore (Tenor) - Paul Lewis (Piano) - Richard Watkins (Horn) - 093046752026 - Released: September 2011 - Harmonia Mundi 907520

Wonderful!! This is what being a true musician is all about. To look at a random series of notes on a sheet of paper, and be able to see beyond them and decipher their deeper meaning, and uncover the motivation that placed them on that page in the first place. Quite simply put, to recreate the heart and mind behind those notes. And that is precisely what tenor Mark Padmore and pianist Paul Lewis achieve in this recording, which concludes their traversal of the great song cycles by Franz Schubert.

By the time Schubert composed the songs that form Schwanengesang (Swansong), which were published after his untimely death, he had attained an unmatched level of mastery over form and harmony which resulted in music that seemed effortless. Whereas Beethoven, in his final works, was still hard at work, sweating over the details, everything about Schubert's final pieces just seems to come together easily and still manages to plumb the depths of human emotion. As a matter of fact, in parts of Schwanengesang he descends right down to the bottom.

Mark Padmore's astute handling of the text combined with the emotionally penetrating accompaniment by Paul Lewis, make for an interpretation that wipes the slate clean and resets the bar a few notches higher. Some of the high points are their poignant ending to Kriegers Ahnung, the charm they bring to Ständchen, the spirited approach to Abschied, and most of all, their heart-wrenching account of Der Doppelgänger. Padmore not only sings the words here, he lives them. Music making of the highest order by two accomplished individuals who, when working together, create a force to be reckoned with.

This CD concludes with two extra songs. Die Sterne and the beautiful Auf dem Strom for tenor, french horn and piano, with the horn part expertly played by Richard Watkins. As usual, Harmonia Mundi provide a superb sound recording in which the balance between the two performers could not be better, and where the immediacy of the voice is almost tangible. If this disc is not on the list of nominees for the next round of awards, then the world is definitely off kilter.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2011